That’s not a typo. Apple’s successes are culturally derived. Samsung’s failures are, well culturally derived. Ask anyone on the streets who makes the most smartphones in the world and you may get a variety of answer, including ‘Apple‘, thanks to the popularity of the iPhone. Ask anyone on the streets who makes the best smartphone or the most expensive line of smartphones and Apple likely tops the list.
Everything Apple does is a reflection of the company’s culture. Wherever Samsung fails is a reflection of the Korean conglomerate’s culture, too. As they say, business is war, and in war, the first casualty is truth, which explains why manufacturers are quick to compare certain features of their products only to a competitor’s specific feature that doesn’t necessarily compare well.
Let’s take smartphone battery capacity, multi-core CPUs, high density screens, and operating systems as a list of examples to explains the cultural differences between Apple and Samsung’s approach to designing, building, and marketing smartphones.
In every case, specifications for Apple’s iPhone trail Samsung’s flagship Galaxy Note 7. Samsung’s battery is much larger. The CPU has more cores. The screen has much higher resolution. And there’s the old Android vs. iPhone meme. To remain viable as a manufacturer with wares in the premium end of the smartphone spectrum– where there are real profits– Samsung must differentiate the Galaxy Note 7 from whatever Apple did last year or is about to introduce this year.
The battery size and capacity is a good example because top Android smartphone makers need larger batteries to power more pixels on dense Quad-HD screens, and ridiculously multi-multi-core CPUs, and an Android OS that is not easily tuned to match specific hardware requirements. Yet, an Android-based smartphone with double the battery capacity of a comparably equipped iPhone does not yield twice the battery life.
Likewise, more RAM in an Android device than in an iPhone does not yield a faster device, nor does more cores in the CPU help a device perform better than an iPhone.
Apple’s holistic approach is to meld software and hardware into a single device that performs better than competing devices with higher specifications. The requirement to compete against Apple is to differentiate and the easiest way to do that is increased specifications.
Samsung’s approach to competing with the iPhone has always been to sprint at a breakneck pace and reach new hardware milestones first. But that has backfired horribly this year with the unfortunate Galaxy Note 7 recall, which was caused by exploding batteries. Chasing ever higher densities and ever more aggressive fast-charging methods, Samsung seems to have made the mistake of pushing that little bit too hard.
It should be clear now why Apple doesn’t push the envelope as much as tech critics think the company should. Samsung’s recent Galaxy Note 7 recall cost the company more than $20-billion in market capitalization and perhaps as much as $4-billion in cash, not to mention the trust of customers.
Here’s another example. Screen resolution.
This resolution issue is a great example of knowing when a spec ceases to be important: Samsung, LG, HTC, and others have all reached more impressive resolution numbers than the iPhone, but none of their Quad HD flagship displays looks much better than the iPhone’s. Apple achieves enough resolution (for everything but VR applications), crossing its Retina display threshold, and then it stops. Such pixel frugality leads to longer battery life.
In other words, most customers cannot tell much difference between an HD display and a Quad-HD display, but they can tell the difference in battery life.
Some Android smartphones have octo-core CPUs and double the RAM of iPhones. Yet, users cannot tell much difference in performance, and if they do, it’s in Apple’s favor. Cameras work much the same way. Specifications do not tell the whole story of a photo.
With the iPhone 7’s camera, Apple is making quite a significant leap in max aperture from f/2.2 to f/1.8. It’s also finally adding optical image stabilization to its flagship, non-Plus model. Both are features that Android competitors have been offering for a while now, but Apple’s lead in terms of imaging quality and sheer popularity has allowed it to be late in the feature race without leaving its users feeling like they’re missing out. It’s not fair, it’s not strictly rational, but iPhones have grown more popular as everyday cameras while lacking the latest specs: the top six most popular cameras on Flickr in 2015 were iPhone models.
Apple’s holistic approach to melding design, hardware specifications, and manufacturing capability while focusing on usability means competitors are forced to differentiate via hardware specifications, which, as iPhone performance and camera point out, is futility personified. It’s worse for Android-device makers, too, because they have to bolt on a vanilla Android version to their hardware, thereby reducing usability to a list of bullet points and configurations that users don’t care much about, instead preferring Apple’s approach to easy updates to new iOS versions with security and privacy fixes that Android makers cannot match.
Apple’s success is holistically cultural while Samsung’s recent failures (and pretty much the failures of other Android-based smartphone makers) remains holistically cultural, as the ultra-dense, gargantuan, and flaming-edge battery in the Galaxy Note 7 shows.